The Indian smartphone race is at an exciting juncture right now. The first wave saw brands resort to online-only sales model and minimal marketing expenses to offer devices at rock-bottom prices, redefining value-for-money smartphones. This approach has reached a point of saturation, and for round 2, brands are now looking to get creative with their marketing and focus on better offline presence.
OnePlus is probably the best example of this movement as it moved from an online-only model to a more spread-out approach with hundreds of offline partners. To get a better understanding of how this works, OnePlus invited me to check out their new Experience Store in Pune.
This new Experience Centre is located in a fancy area of Pune and has a couple of other service centres of different brands around it. But OnePlus’ centre was the most prominent one occupying an entire block and has multiple floors. There’s no unnecessary text or names or hoardings outside, just a neat OnePlus logo facing the road. That, sure, puts OnePlus’ minimalist design preference on front.
Divided into two floors, the ground level primarily takes care of sales and the “experience” part. Upon entry, the first think you will notice is the display of in all the available colours, because of course, they are the stars of the show.
Of the two floors, the ground level primarily takes care of sales and the “experience” part. Upon entry, the first thing you will notice the display of the latest flagship phones in all the available colours because of course, they are the stars of the show.
These display tables are full of official OnePlus accessories and swag such as the popular backpacks and t-shirts. OnePlus is trying to make this store a complete experience for everyone, irrespective of their interests. On the other side is the more relaxed corner where patrons can unwind with some books, Fast Charge their phones or check out all the limited edition OnePlus flagships from the yesteryears.
The OnePlus Coffee experience also makes the cut where all the guests can have freshly brewed coffee during their visit. In case you wondered, yes, it is complimentary.
The second floor is more focused on after-sales service, which was an Achilles heel for OnePlus when it just came to India. But at this centre, issues with any OnePlus phone is said to be fixed in less than an hour right in front of your eyes. To add to the customer’s peace of mind, they can see the phone getting torn open, fixed, and put together in real-time, providing some much-needed assurance. If that doesn’t interest you, they even have a PlayStation 4 with many game titles so you can spend your 1 hour happily.
This entire process has been explained right at the waiting area not to overwhelm someone who’s coming for the first time. In short, you start by collecting your token, filling up the job-sheet, and explaining the problem. After which, you will be called by the Customer Care Officer to understand and potentially diagnose the issue. If not, then the device is passed on to the engineer. The engineers repair and hand back the phone in less than an hour, and the customers are asked if they’re satisfied with the repair. The customer then completes the transaction and settles the account if the phone was out of warranty.
What's next for OnePlus in India?
I had my doubts about the utility of such a large store in a non-tier one city where the footfall and sales may not be enough to make the centre profitable. But further conversations reminded me that these stores are not just for sales and service, but a crucial marketing move. It not just lets the consumers experience OnePlus products and services, but also gives them the affirmation that this brand is here to stay, and if needed, they have someone to reach out physically. For price-sensitive markets such as India, the transaction and the relationship begins at the sale, not ends. If their new phone doesn’t last a good 2-3 years, it’s unlikely a customer will come back to OnePlus or even recommend it.
OnePlus is the market leader in the premium and the ultra-premium segments of India, and these moves go a long way in strengthening their position in the minds of people who are looking to make the switch to OnePlus.